GUIDANCE FOR SERVICE MEMBERS
Members of the U.S. military face legal battles on three fronts if charged with domestic violence in the military. Administrative and criminal sanctions can be imposed by the military. Civilian courts can issue restraining orders and criminal sanctions. Also, the Lautenberg Amendment prevents a person who has been convicted of domestic violence from possessing a firearm or ammunition. Domestic violence is any offense involving the use or attempted use of physical force or threatened use of a deadly weapon against:
- Your current or former spouse.
- Your child.
- A child or other person of whom you are the guardian.
- A person with whom you share a child
- A person with whom you are cohabitating or have cohabitated as the person’s spouse, parent, or guardian.
- A person similarly situated to a spouse, child, or ward.
Further information about this law is available on the U.S. Attorney’s site: https://www.justice.gov/usam/criminal-resource-manual-1117-restrictions-possession-firearms-individuals-convicted.
The Lautenberg Amendment applies to members of the military and police officers. Consequently, police and military personnel who have been convicted of domestic violence cannot possess a firearm for personal or professional use. The practical implication is a person convicted of domestic violence in a civilian or a military court will often be separated from the military.
OBEY PROTECTIVE OR RESTRAINING ORDERS
A member of the military who has been accused of domestic violence will probably be served with a military protective order (MPO) and/or a restraining order issued by a civilian court. Also, before criminal charges are filed, the Family Advocacy Program may intervene. For more information about the Family Advocacy Program go to: http://www.militaryonesource.mil/phases-military-leadership?content_id=266712 .
If you have been served with an MPO or a restraining order issued by a civilian court, obey the order. Family relationships are complex and many people think if they talk with the person who requested the restraining order to be issued, everything will be okay. Violating a civilian or military order will not make everything okay. Regardless of whether you are guilty or not of domestic violence, violating a restraining order opens up additional charges.
While state laws typically have a statute specifically addressing domestic violence, the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) draws on several provisions that relate to domestic violence. For example, failure to obey an MPO could draw charges of violating Article 92 of the UCMJ. Article 92 deals with the failure to follow orders. Moreover, the UCMJ prohibitions concerning assault, rape, maiming, threats, destruction of government and private property may become relevant in a domestic violence case. A list of potential charges is provided at the following link: www.ncdsv.org/images/attachment8–ucmjarticles.pdf.
Regardless of the charges or whether the charges are from a military or civilian authority, the consequences are serious. Your military career is in jeopardy. If an MPO or a civilian restraining order has been issued, obey the order but do not wait to find out if criminal charges in civilian court or violations of the Uniform Code of Military Justice will be filed. Consult with a military defense attorney immediately.
Charges of domestic violence in the military may be difficult to bear. However, a charge is not the same as a conviction. An MPO or a civilian restraining order may have been issued without your having an opportunity to tell your side. Also, civilian courts often err on the side of caution when a hearing is conducted on a restraining order. This means the restraining order will typically be left in place.
Do not be discouraged when facing criminal charges. There are defenses to domestic violence. In contrast to the initial proceedings, at a trial or court martial the prosecution has the burden of proof and must prove the defendant was guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
SOME PEOPLE HAVE A MOTIVE TO MAKE FALSE ACCUSATIONS
Often domestic violence cases are a he said, she said situation. Also, many domestic violence charges are made by people with bad motives. For example, many domestic violence charges come from individuals with whom the accused is no longer involved. Ex’s can be vindictive and know that a charge of domestic violence can be devastating. Moreover, an individual with whom the accused has a child may have a motive to make false accusations. The charge of domestic violence can provide leverage in a custody case. There are numerous reasons people make false charges. An experienced trial attorney gives you the best chance of getting at the truth and saving your reputation and military career.
Engage an attorney early in the process. Do not wait for the trial. The time to act is when you receive an MPO or a civilian restraining order. The attorney can start assembling evidence and advise you on the correct course of action.
IF YOU HAVE A PROBLEM, GET HELP
If problems exist in your family, there is a good chance that someone from the Family Advocacy Program (FAP) will contact you. If the Family Advocacy Program contacts you or a family member regarding domestic violence, seek the advice of an attorney.
Many veterans who served in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other areas of armed conflict suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). PTSD can create anger issues. Be proactive and get help before the issue becomes a legal matter.
HAYTHAM FARAJ, AN EXCELLENT ATTORNEY WITH MILITARY EXPERIENCE
Regardless of your situation, if you are charged with domestic violence in the military you need legal help. Attorney Haytham Faraj is an outstanding criminal defense attorney with extensive experience in military law. He is a former member of the military. Therefore, he knows the realities of military life. If false accusations have been made, he will fight to get at the truth. If the FAP is involved, he will steer you through the process. If you have been charged with domestic violence, do not go it alone and do not wait. Hatham Faraj has the knowledge and ability to help you.